City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson said she hopes to have all the debris created by Hurricane Irma removed within 60 days. “We don’t have as many trucks as we would like to have,” she said, referring to the high demand for trucks from cities across Florida and Texas. “We are working as quickly as we can.”
Mayor Gary Resnick praised city staff members on their response to Hurricane Irma, specifically Ann Henderson and Emergency Management Director David Archacki.
At the Sept. 26 commission meeting, Resnick praised the efforts of employees who worked to get roads and drains cleared, install generators at sewage lift stations, check-in on elderly and other vulnerable residents, and organize a staging point in the city for out of state power company workers restoring electricity.
“This is the time when small town government really shines,” said Resnick. “This is the mark of a great community.”
City commissioners tried to reimburse Henderson for the expenses she incurred because of the hurricane, but she declined the offer. “I appreciate the generous offer.” She sent her kids to an area not in Irma’s path and spent the storm camped out at city hall along with other city employees. Henderson said that all the city’s employees “deserve our thanks and recognition.”
Commissioner Tom Green said he was impressed with city employees who stayed at City Hall.
But some residents who spoke at the meeting said the city needs to improve its response.
Resident Ruthanne Stadnik said the city needs to hire a “geriatric manager” to inspect assisted living facilities and ensure seniors are doing well. She said the state already does inspections but she thinks they are too limited and that the position could help the city better utilize resources after a storm by making sure vulnerable residents are taken care of before a storm.
Multiple residents also complained about bulk pick-up not hauling away hurricane debris from their property, even though they pay taxes like other residents. City staff said it was because they live on a private road and a stipulation in FEMA’s debris removal contract prevents debris removal from private property.
Paul Rolli, president of the Central Area Neighborhood Association, urged officials to try and find a solution.
Resident Joe O'Gorman said the city should prohibit property owners from planting trees under power lines. “I hope we can do something about it next year.”
Later in the meeting, Commissioner Scott Newton said the city already had an ordinance for trees under power lines but that the city might need to get more strict about its enforcement.
He said he doesn’t like the idea of going into people’s backyards. “We don’t want to do that but I don’t want to go through this [losing power for days] anymore.” Green said he agreed with Newton but he warned against the city becoming overzealous and making people trim trees too much.
Business owner Nick Berry said he agreed with the suggested prohibition on planting trees under power lines but said that it’s up to homeowners, not FPL or the government, to trim their trees and prevent branches from damaging lines. “It’s not their job to trim your trees.”
Resident Tricia Lee Cline said she’d like to see the city organize the residents to be more responsive after a hurricane. “Let’s get in this together.”